Hard edge abstraction.

An art lesson in under one and a half minutes, an easy approach to painting hard edged abstract paintings.





Moving The Muse

The Rock - Acrylic on canvas
The Rock - Acrylic on canvas

What do you do when you feel like the muses have deserted you and your inspiration has left for parts unknown?


Someone wrote to me recently who was facing this problem. I’m not an expert, but it got me thinking about the subject.


What to do may depend a little on what’s behind the lack of inspiration.


There is an aphorism, ‘A person with a tooth ache cannot be in love’. It is true, if you are in pain, it is difficult to focus on other people or things. If you are going through a hard time and that is taking all your attention and energy away from the art you wish you were creating, it may be what you are facing will need to be dealt with before you can feel inspired again. Knowing this is temporary can help. Inspiration hasn’t deserted you, it is just giving you the space and time to focus and deal with other important issues.


Lack of inspiration could be a symptom of boredom. If that is the source, the solution would be to try something new. Create a challenge of some kind, perhaps to master a new technique or subject.


A fear of failure will also make the muses run and hide. If you have a thought at the back of your mind when you pick up a brush you should produce a work of art, something stunning every time, that’s a lot to live up to, impossible in fact. Put aside the major works for a while. Give yourself permission to play and have plan to have some fun with paint, without any expectations. Guaranteed, it won’t be long before your muse returns.


I suspect the muses need to be fed and nurtured too. Art books, visits to galleries and exhibitions, and time spent with other artists all help.


Great artists inspire by showing what’s possible and by their achievements set high standards to aim for. Artists whose work you don’t admire encourage by setting a standard that you know you can surpass. It’s comforting to think you are not the worst painter in the world.


When you’re feeling uninspired, what have you found that gets you moving and feeling creative again? Any ideas?









Mixing Red Gold

I recently received an email asking How to mix Red Gold. The writer was concerned with the cost of buying it in a tube and was curious to know if it is possible to mix it herself.


Red Gold is a beautiful, warm, transparent colour.  I love it and often use it, both as a colour in its' own right and for mixing various greens. It is what I call a convenience colour. While it is certainly possible to mix the colour yourself, I don't think there is any advantage in doing so.


The pigments that make up Red Gold are PY74 (Transparent Yellow) and PR.175 (Permanent Brown Madder). An easy mix if you have these colours. However Permanent Brown Madder is a series 3 colour, same as Red Gold, so there would be no cost saving in mixing it yourself, at least that is the case with the paints I usually work with.


Because Red Gold is transparent, to mix a colour that behaves in the same way other transparent colours must be used. In my colour experiments the closest I could get to Red Gold using other colours was a mix of Permanent Alizarin (which contains PR.175) and Indian Yellow (which contains PY.74). Permanent Alizarin is a relatively expensive colour so again there would be no cost saving.


The cheapest mix that I could achieve that looked similar to Red Gold was a mix of Indian Yellow and Crimson.


If anyone has had success using other colours to create a Red Gold please share.






Tips For The Colour Confused

Kalamini Gorge WA
Kalamini Gorge WA

Do you find colour confusing?


Have you have ever reached for the yellow ochre and then realised you picked up orange instead? Do you find it hard to decide exactly what a colour is? You are never sure if it is yellow green or khaki… green or brown? Do you ever hear other artists talk about nuances of colour that you can’t even see, and wonder how they do that? Do people question the colours you use? Have you ever painted a sky purple when you intended to use blue?


If any of this applies to you, it may be you have a degree of what is commonly called colour blindness.


The term, ‘colour blind’ is misleading. People often assume when they hear these words it means no colour vision, but that is not correct. More than 99% of all colour blind people can see colours. It is just that they see a narrower color spectrum compared to somebody with normal color vision.


Colour Vision Deficiency is a more accurate name for this condition, which is estimated to affect 8% of the male population in Australia and about .04 % of women.


If you are in the 8.04% with colour vision deficiency don’t despair. You can still be an artist … and a good one at that. Colour blindness is not the end of the world, it is just a different way of seeing the world.


An internet search will quickly show you there are, and have been many artists with varying degrees of colour vision deficiency, some of them quite famous.


Charles Meryon, is a well known 19th century French artist who dealt with his colour blindness by working as an etcher in monochrome. Australian artist Clifton Pugh failed the colour blindness test when he tried to enlist in the navy, but that did not stop him from becoming a three times winner of the Archibald prize.



This really is a case of the colour blind leading the colour blind, but here are my suggestions, tips for painting with confidence, even if you are  like me, an artist faced with the challenge of colour vision deficiency. 



1.Embrace the challenge. Accept the fact. It is certainly not an insurmountable handicap. Remember, the creation and appreciation of art is a personal and subjective process. You are free to paint the world as you see it, or even how you would like it to be.


2. Take advice. Listen to feedback. Ask for help. 91.96% of the population have full colour vision. They are a resource you can use. They can help you with your colour choices until you learn what works.


3. Limit the number of colours you use, especially when you starting out. Using a limited palette will stops you being overwhelmed by colour choices and makes it easy to maintain a colour harmony within your paintings.


4. Work tonally. For me, this is the big one. Aim to get the shape and the tone of your subject right. If you do that, you can use your artistic licence and paint in whatever colours you like. The colours you choose may not be realistic, but the image you produce will still be believable or accessible to the viewer.


5. Label your colours and/or always use the same arrangement of colours on your palette.


This blog is a reprint of an article I wrote, first published 2011 in Australian Artist magazine.






Set the stage first.

Setting the stage and putting the hero on it is an approach to painting that works well for some subjects, but not for others. It is particularly suited for paintings where the main subject dominates the foreground as the background is established first and then the subject is added.


This particular demonstration was previously published in International Artist magazine #87. The DVD ‘Painting without brushes’ also demonstrates this approach with a different subject.


If you would like a PDF of this demonstration, so that you can try something similar, it can be downloaded from the resources page.

Western Myall
Western Myall

The painting needs only three colours: Ultramarine Blue, Crimson, Arylamide Yellow, plus Titanium White


Brushes – Pastry Brush

Fan Brush

Liner or Rigger Brush


Medium - Clear Painting Medium


Step 1 – Base Coat


Mix Ultramarine Blue and White for the sky. Cover two thirds of the canvas with blue, with a gradation of tone from top to bottom, darker at the top, lighter at the bottom. Use your big brush for this stage.


Cover the lower third of the canvas with an orange colour, a mix of yellow, crimson and white. Blend a little of the orange into the sky just above the horizon.


Step 2 - Add clouds.


Add the clouds. You can use your artistic licence to paint whatever cloud shapes you would like to make it more interesting. The diagonal sweep of the clouds in the reference provides a nice contrasting direction line to the horizon.


Step 3 – Distant details


A useful convention to follow when painting landscapes is to begin with what is furthest away.


The distant trees are painted with the fan brush. Mix a very light green using ultramarine, yellow and lots of white. Make sure the brush marks and the shades of green are varied. If the green you mix is too intense, a touch of red or the orange mix can be used to tone it down.


Step 4 – Adding the hero.


Using the fan brush, paint the tree foliage and shape of the bushes. The greens used for these closer trees should be darker than those used for the distant ones. Make them a warmer green too, by using more yellow in the mix.


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What's the difference between amateur and professional artists?

Out On A Limb

I have been following a discussion on Linked In about the diifference between amateur artists and professionals. Thought I'd throw in my two cents worth.


To describe an artist as a professional or as an amateur is not necessarily making a judgement about the quality of their art.


By definition, a professional is a person engaged in a specified activity as their main paid occupation, rather than as a pastime. Professional artists are in the business of producing art to make an income.


Amateurs may sell work and derive income from their art, but that is not the primary motivation. For them art may be a passion, a hobby or a recreational pastime, but it does not matter if their work doesn’t sell. They are not in business.


Many professional artists began their careers as amateurs, and many amateurs are as skilled as professionals.


This is where confusion can arise, when the word professional is used to describe skill. To say someone has the skills appropriate to a professional indicates they work at a high standard, but it does not make them a professional.


If you are an artist the labels won't change the quality of the art you produce.


Wearing the label ‘professional’ may confer credibility with art buyers and seeing yourself as a professional will make a difference to how you approach the making and marketing of your art.


The amateur enjoys other privileges. They are in the wonderful position of being free to follow their passion or whims wherever they like, without concern for how the buying public will respond. They can develop their artistic skills to any level they choose. They are free to experiment with radical ideas, paint in different styles and produce work of inconsistent quality without fear of consequences.


Professional artists can of course do all this too, but the reality is these things have consequences for a business. They impact on how the work is perceived and received by collectors. If you are trying to build a career as a professional this is a real constraint.


Bottom line. If you are an amateur, don’t be offended by being described as such. Enjoy your freedom and be the best artist you can be. If you are a professional, I hope your business gives you a great income and that you never lose the joy and passion of creating art.


What do you think?







Tone and texture


In the previous blog entry I shared about the painting, titled 'Sorry' I had recently finished.


Today I'd like to share the painting process I used. It is what I call the reverse tone and texture approach. It is a process I enjoy and have used successfully with wildlife, gnarled gumtrees and portraits. Try it yourself with any subject where you would like texture to be a feature.


if you would like a pdf of the demonstration, so that you can try somthing similar, it can be downloaded from the resources page.  



Chalk drawing on toned canvas
Chalk drawing on toned canvas

1.This approach begins with a toned canvas, usually a dark colour. The canvas can be a previously textured using thick paint, impasto medium or modelling compound.


Use a chalk drawing in a contrasting colour to map out the composition

Map composition with white paint
Map composition with white paint

2. With white paint, or white paint mixed with impasto medium or modelling compound create a tonal map. Tonal variation is created by using thinned white paint for the darker tones and thick white for the lightest tones. If the paint is applied thickly it may be necessary to leave the painting to dry for several hours before going on to the next stage of adding colour.

Add colour in glazes
Add colour in glazes

4. Once the first layer of paint is dry, colour is added. This may be in thin, transparent layers using washes or glazes, or with thick, opaque layers of paint depending on the effect you are trying to achieve

5. The painting is developed by continually adjusting tone and colour, and adding details until it is finished to your satisfaction.

'Sorry' Acrylic on linen 30"x30"
'Sorry' Acrylic on linen 30"x30"







The 26th of May is Sorry Day, a national day in Australia acknowledging the mistreatment of the nations indigenous people since the European invasion and settlement. We have a black history that needs to be remembered.


This video clip from the National Film & Sound Archive is indicative of the treatment aboriginal people received through out Australia in the late 1800's and early 20th century. I have always been moved by photographs I've seen from this period of aboriginal men in chains. aware that many of them were freedom fighters, fighting for their land and people. I would have done the same.


As a white Australian I can only imagine the pain and grief of these, the country's first inhabitants, with the loss of their land, freedom and culture. It is this pain and grief that I have tried to capture in this painting.








Post Exhibition thoughts

Border Sentinal
Border Sentinal

Previously I talked about a different approach I was trialling for an exhibition. Here are my thoughts on the exhibition and what I learned in the process.


The idea was one I just had to try.


The opening went well, although the number of people attending was less than I had hoped for. The venue I chose, ideal in so many ways, is an hour out of the city. I believe that proved to be too far for some people. Lesson number one.


The short time frame was right and I enjoyed the week as artist in residence while the exhibition was hanging. It generated a lot of interest and some sales.


Half the paintings sold, all of them for prices well above the reserve price. A big thankyou to everyone who came to the exhibition and especially those who participated in the bidding.


I am happy with the results and experience gained in staging this exhibition, but I think this approach maybe a strategy best suited for artists at the start of their career, a way to begin building a data base and gather contact details of people interested in their art, not such a good idea for mid career or established artists.







Name Your Price

As Time Goes By
As Time Goes By

In a previous blog, Doing Things Differently, I talked about the challenge of being self reliant and finding new, innovative ways to market art and promote oneself as an artist.


Success is never guaranteed, but failure is certain if no action is taken.


Simply repeating what is no longer working is not good enough either. Doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result has been described as a definition of insanity.


In the first week of December I have an exhibition opening and trying something different. All work is to be sold by silent auction. The exhibition Name Your Price is to be held at Jack's Cafe, part of our local art trail.


The Guidelines established for the auction are:-

A low reserve price, but one that means paintings are not given away.

A short time frame. The exhibition/silent auction will run for eight days, from 4.00 pm Sunday 2nd December 2012 until 5pm Sunday 9th December 2012.

Only bids received during this period will be accepted. The usual price of each painting will be listed as a guide to value. This can be used or ignored. The collector decides what they are willing to pay for a piece.

Bids are silent. What is offered for any painting is between the bidder and the artist. An indication of how many bids have been made is displayed with the painting, but not what the bids are.

Bids can be made at the Café using a catalogue created for the purpose.

Paintings can also be viewed and bids made online at Clicking on the ‘Paintings’ link takes you to the gallery page where the Name Your Price exhibition is top of the list. The ‘Contact the artist about this painting’ can be used to register bids.

Bids on multiple items are permitted.

A person with winning bids on several items may buy them all, or they can select the painting or paintings they want the most. The remaining paintings will then go to the next highest bidder.

People with winning bids will be contacted in the week following the close of the exhibition to arrange payment, and pick up or delivery of their painting.

The obvious advantage to the collector is they have a chance of buying original art at the price they are willing and able to pay.


Am I devalueing my work with this approach? I don't think so. If a collector feels like they have got a good deal I'll be happy. I want my art to find homes where it will be appreciated and it is likely the buyer will come to the next exhibition. I'll not be advertising what paintings went for, but I will be gathering important feedback from my clients about what they like and what they think my paintings are worth. I will also have the opportunity to build on the database of people who have expressed interest in my work.


Check out the exhibition. I'll let you know how it goes.